PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 1 No. 8

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

December 7, 1998

Tis the Season!

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

Computer Industry News

Web Site of the Week

  • We're giving this feature a week's rest.

General News


  • All Humor Must Go!


  • Anonymous on plagiarism, Neal Macklin on Microsoft.

OK, I said I was going to make this an all-humor issue, but I couldn't resist throwing in just a few items in the other categories. Let's call it--the mostly humor issue! All humor must go. Terrific markdowns. One of a kind items. But some of this other stuff was just too good or too seasonal to wait.

Computer Industry News

More on NCC

Two further notes on the death of the National Computer Conference (NCC) from a first-time correspondent and a regular.

Jim Forbes of Windows Magazine wrote for the first time to freshen up my recollection of the last NCC [see last week's column]. He began by quoting the column (boldface):

It was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the tents. Attendees sweltered. Equipment failed in the heat. Strike three.

Not only did equipment fail, Paul. People failed as well. While the nobles regaled each other with tales of mainframes in the air conditioned main hall, people were passing out from heat stroke out in the tents.

How hot was it? There was at least one heat stroke death at NCC.

Regular writer Neal Macklin notes:

Another reason for the death of NCC was that is was considered "too general" a show. Too much brought together under one roof. As the industry grew, it was natural that it would splinter into smaller segments. NCC didn't change with the times ("NCC Spring Database Show", "NCC Fall Microcomputer Show", for example).

The same can be said of Comdex, as the show is way too big for even Las Vegas to contain. With the addition of the internet as a viable product display medium, the show is doomed.

I usually don't print something unless I agree with it. Neal's right.

 Fake Virus Alert

I got this from a well-meaning friend recently:

If you receive an e-mail entitled, "Win A Holiday", DO NOT OPEN IT! It will erase everything on your hard drive. Forward this letter out to as many people as you can. This is a new, very malicious virus and not many people know about it.

There is no virus like this. I can tell from the message. Any message that asks you to send it to as many friends as possible is almost certainly false, according to experts at Symantec. In fact, the huge volume of well-meaning warnings themselves becomes a form of virus as it ties up the email byways as surely as spam, and, on some days, in nearly equal quantities.

Don't forward one of these notices unless you get it DIRECTLY from an antivirus vendor or your corporate IT department.

Reynolds on Antitrust

No, not the professional Reynolds, but my amateur friend Craig Reynolds, from what he calls his "clipping and editorializing service." First, under the title, " Judge says Microsoft lawyers are "sleazy lying bastards," Craig notes:

OK, so that is not an exact quote of what Judge Jackson said, but that is the gist of it, see the story.:

Then he added:

I was looking for a hyperbole analogous to my message titled "Judge says Microsoft lawyers are `sleazy lying bastards'", but I realized that in this case the truth is better than fiction. Referring to Bill Gates, Judge Jackson told the Microsoft attorneys: "...I think your problem is with your witness, not with the way in which his testimony is being presented..."

See the
full Reuters news item.

All this came under the Craig-selected rubric, "Why Craig isn't a journalist." Quite the contrary, Craig, I think you have a good eye and might well make a great journalist.

Neal Macklin also caught a good one this last week, an AP story which thoughtlessly parroted the Microsoft line that Sun Microsystems had done something wrong when it suggested dropping its competition with Netscape in the browser market. Apparently, the journalist was too ignorant to point out in his story that actions which are illegal for a monopolist are legal when taken by someone else. Either that, or he doesn't believe Microsoft is a monopolist, in which case there's a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell him this week.

Just because Microsoft says black is white doesn't mean you have to believe it. Just because the firm claims it doesn't have a monopoly doesn't mean you have to ignore reality and mindlessly repeat the company line. Saying it doesn't make it so.

Web Site of the Week

Gone Fishin'. Be back next week.

General News

One Eccentric Way To Give

Every year at this time San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll (America's greatest living newspaper columnist) touts his method of holiday giving, which he calls the Untied Way (this link points to last year's column).. It involves an ATM and the free distribution of cash.


Here we go with a whirlwind of humor. I get humor emailed to me virtually every day. I don't hang around on humor groups, separating the wheat from the chaff. I have friends that do that for me. At least they try to.

Not everything mailed to me is of gem-like quality, but some of it the humor is quite hilarious. ROFL, as we say on the Internet. This is the cream of the crop from the last month. Thanks to my main contributors, Phil Gill, Dan Dern and my mother, Mari Schindler, as well as Bruce Murdock, who contributed one of these.

Top 5 List

I made the Top Five list again this week, with two entries on the 13 Little Known Phobias list of Nov. 30. See It Here.

Java Haiku

Garbage collection
The unused objects are gone --
Knew you wouldn't mind

By Jens Alfke <> 12/3/1998. See the complete collection here

Gravy Ladle

Stop me if you've heard this one

if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now. Love, Mom.

Wee Thread

Slightly blue and contains ethnic (Scottish) stereotypes and humor...

but when she bent down to bite off the wee thread...Mr. MacDonald walked in...".

Silly Definitions

There's more where this came from

Balderdash--n., a rapidly receding hairline.

Chemistry Mid-Term

Never believe anything on the Internet that starts out "this is an actual question..."

then (2) cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic

If Cars Were Like Microsoft Windows

There must be about a billion of these; people are moved to write them because Gates is always using the analogy about "if the auto industry improved at the rate of the computer industry."

7. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single "general car default" warning light.

Stock Market Report

As someone who has been writing the audio version of a daily stock market report lately, I especially loved this one.

Helium was up, feathers were down. Paper was stationary.
Fluorescent tubing was dimmed in light trading.
Knives were up sharply.

If AOL Were a City

There are a lot of things people hate about AOL...

You'd live in a place where no two people had the same name, and all were h0t 17/f cheerleaders with a fetish for pierced gay Dobermans in spandex.
You'd only pay $19.95 a month to live there, but half the time you tried to leave your house, the door would be stuck.

Employee Evaluations

The person who sent these topped them with a note that said "some of these have been around a long time, but some are new. They were half right. (it includes that darn word actual again)

33. "Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he only gargled."
34. "Takes him 2 hours to watch 60 minutes."
35. "The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead."


The author of this letter asked not to have his name used for professional reasons. But clearly he cares about the subject. He's talking about my humor item about merged company names, culled from Leah Garchik in last week's column:

Your oh-so-clever "friend of a friend" seems to be no more than a well-played (and well paid, I'd guess) plagiarist. I wonder when newspaper editors and publishers will stop giving a wink and a nod and a fat salary to such recycled-drivel mongering. Since you live in the inexplicable journalistic backwater of the Bay Area, the answer is, I'm afraid, probably never.

The less-than-uproarious material you quote from Leah Garchik has been circulating on the Internet for months, and in the pages of (at least) business school student newspapers for years. I think I heard a few of them in Jay Leno's monologue when there was another big merger a while back -- or was it Johnny Carson? Heck, I think my kids must have seen those jokes on AOL around the time Mickey Eisner bought a TV network, added two ears to its logo and renamed it ABCD.

Plagiarism, inaccuracy or outright fabrication is dishonorable at best, and deeply damaging to our business (news) and our profession (journalism). With the power of the pen and the press -- and, we may hope, someday, the "post" -- comes responsibility, however haphazardly -- Framers be praised! -- it may be enforced. Remember "just following orders," or "too many Twinkies"?

Thankfully, the public discourse has begun to discredit the disingenuous tactic of blaming someone else -- "Bob Cullinan offers..." in Ms.Garchik's formulation -- for one's abrogation of basic journalistic responsibility. Ask Mike Barnicle or Patricia Smith, formerly metropolitan columnists for The Boston Globe. At least Barnicle was clever enough to rip off some truly funny material from George Carlin, besides blaming an unnamed and apparently rather dead nurse's aide for his phony story about two boys with cancer.

Happy holidays!

In Leah's defense, I will say only that Barnicle, who had reviewed Carlin's book, must have known, at some level, that he was plagiarizing, while Garchik may well have been a victim of her source.

For the first time, I have a letter with digressions which I have generously programmed for Neal Macklin:

I'm sure others have written you by now, but your "digression" about the credit card monthly charges didn't appear as a hyperlink.

[Neal caught this early on Monday, so most of you probably never saw it]

In our trial-by-public-sentiment society, it's disgusting that Microsoft stock is at an all time high because people "feel" MS has been vindicated by the AOL-Netscape merger. I question theindependence of thought of the general public (as opposed to that of quirky journalists who publish their own columns). Thanks for being an advocate.

In my opinion, the Microsoft "vigorish" will come as a charge to use the "Windows Update" feature in future releases. Those users that are content to live with the bug-ridden, impossible-to-reconfigure versions they get out of the box or pre-installed on their computers probably won't have to continue to pay Microsoft. But anyone that is dependent on click-and-pray, update-in-the-blind object code maintenance will probably have no alternative but to subscribe to the service. Without source code, you are completely dependent on bug fixes and incompatibility resolutions from Microsoft.

Plus, Bill Gates finally has an impenetrable copy protection scheme. There's no way anyone with identical product serial numbers is going to get maintenance updates.
Digress Here

I think the greatest argument for Microsoft having monopoly power is that the price of the OS is about the only component of the personal computer that has not declined in cost. If there were no monopoly, and no threat of recrimination, you'd imagine that for the $750 million a year Compaq pays Microsoft, they might consider banding together with Gateway, HP, Dell (well, maybe not Dell -- they're too busy testifying on behalf of Bill) to fund an alternative OS.

One reason this is not occurring is that the real monopoly is in the Office data formats. Getting an alternative OS does not solve this problem as there would certainly be no PowerPoint version around the corner. The Microsoft juggernaut is an incredibly clever interlocking lock-in at multiple levels.

Even back in your Information Week IBM days, you could count Syncsort and IDMS as viable alternatives to IBM products -- but Oracle and WordPerfect notwithstanding, there's been nothing like the Office lock-in.)

The only thing that heartens me is that I got a brief glimpse of the industry feeling its oats when, after crossing the public anti-Microsoft bridge together (and burning it, as I heard someone say) AOL, Sun, and Netscape stock *went up* after they stood up together.

Now if we could only have some of the gutless PC hardware executives do the same and reassert control of their products, we'd have begun to restore a semblance of balance to the industry!

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